The biggest issue with “How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is its title.
With the previous two installments following a numerical pattern with “How to Train Your Dragon” and “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” a reasonable person would assume that the third movie would slap a “3” at the end of the title and keep it simple. But no, they had to add a subtitle at the end, just to throw the entire pattern off.
Why? How would you feel if we started doing that with other animated trilogies, such as turning “Toy Story 3” into “Toy Story: Graduation Year” or “Cars 3” into “Cars: The Unnecessary Sequel?"
Whatever the title is, “How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” follows Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his lovable Navy-scaled partner Toothless as they search for the “Hidden World,” a land removed from the edge of the Earth that serves as a haven for dragons.
Since Hiccup’s home Berk has since become overcrowded with Vikings and dragons alike, Hiccup and Toothless are now on the search for new land to call home. The Hidden World seems like a solution to Hiccup’s troubles.
But a silent threat is tracking Hiccup and his fangless friend. A dragon hunter named Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) is responsible for the near-extinction of Toothless’ dragon race, the Night Furies - and he’s looking to finish what he started.
Now Hiccup has to protect both Toothless and the people of Berk as they continue their search for the Hidden World.
"How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" is a quality sequel to the "How To Train Your Dragon" franchise, and a welcome addition to this sprawling trilogy. Everything you love about the previous movies is all here - and they’re arguably better than they’ve ever been.
The animation is gorgeous and detailed, with the high-speed dragon flights and action so enthralling that they’re comparable to most of today’s fantasy blockbusters. The music is just as epic as it has always been, with John Powell’s sensational score building up to the emotion of a Viking’s roar or a dragon’s screech. And the story by writer-director Dean DeBlois is surprisingly affectionate, with the ending, in particular, moving me to tears and staying with me long after I’ve left the theater.
But even as the third entry to this animated trilogy, there were a few surprises to "The Hidden World" that I wasn’t expecting.
For instance, Toothless has become smitten by a sparkling female friend called a "Light Fury," and their romance was surprisingly sweet and didn't annoy the living bejesus out of me.
Seeing Toothless, this fearful Alpha-male creature who literally has dragons bow down before him, crumble and awkwardly try to impress this stunning blue-eyed beauty was very entertaining to watch. It reminded me of myself whenever I tried to impress my high school crush when I was a kid.
Spoiler warning: My efforts weren’t as successful as Toothless’ were.
All the same, some elements that didn’t work as well with previous installments continue to hinder the franchise here. Case in point – the movie’s villain. While this series isn’t well-known for having strong antagonists, Grimmel is a mostly flat and generic villain whose motivations are typical to usual supervillain banter.
I do like how the movie juxtaposes Grimmel’s journey with Hiccup’s, reflecting on how Hiccup’s life might have turned out differently if he decided not to spare Toothless in the first movie. But even Abraham’s voice performance is mostly forgettable.
“Doctor Who” himself David Tennant appears in this movie as a voice cameo, and I still wonder how much better the film might have fared if he voiced Grimmel instead of Abraham.
All the same, “The Hidden World” is a fantastic closing to a fantastic trilogy – an exciting and emotionally moving adventure that’s sure to satisfy both kids and adults.
I only ask one thing – can this be it? Can this truly be the end of the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise? Pixar made fans groan years ago when it announced production for “Toy Story 4” despite making the supposed definitive ending in “Toy Story 3.” The last thing I want from DreamWorks is a “How To Train Your Dragon 4.”
I give “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” four and a half lightbulbs out of five.
“How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor.